The Wager

By: Calista Kyle


Most people my age would probably jump at the chance to attend the Eichendorf Gala, not pine away for another evening of solitude. After all, the guest list was made up of the movers and shakers of the world with attendees including celebrities, politicians, models, billionaires, and even royalty. And yet here I was, a lowly bookstore owner, and I happened to have a ticket to the hottest event in town.

A wry smile crossed my face at the thought. If only the folks back home in my Podunk town in Maine heard about this, they would never believe it. Poor, ugly Lily Hayward really moved up in the world, they'd probably say.

I frowned at the direction my thoughts were headed. After graduating high school eight years ago, I vowed to never ever look back. There were just too many bad memories. I hadn't even gone back home to visit since I left for college, even though I missed my parents.

"Hey Lily, you all right?"

I jerked my head up at the unexpected interruption. "Oh Doris! I didn't even notice you come in," I said.

"I'll say. You were off in la la land for a minute there."

"How long have you been standing there?" I felt a flush of heat creep up my face at being caught.

"Not long. Maybe a couple of minutes. What's wrong?" she asked, concern etching across her face.

"Oh nothing," I said. "I've just got a lot on my mind right now. Do you think you can cover for me this weekend during the day? I know I scheduled you to close too, but something came up and I've got to go out this weekend."

"Yeah sure," she said. "You know me, I could use all the extra hours I can get."

I smiled gratefully at Doris. She'd been working at the bookstore for fifteen years. She was actually the one who trained me when I had started working here six years ago to help pay for college. Our old boss Mr. Mosley had decided to sell the place right after my grandmother died. She'd left me with a nice chunk of money and it seemed like the perfect timing to buy the bookstore.

Doris had been worried about keeping her job at first, but I knew there was no way I was letting her go. On top of being an honest and hardworking employee, I knew she needed the paycheck. At 60 years of age, it wasn't exactly easy for her to find another job, and I knew she had a lot on her plate with raising her grandchildren after their mother ran out on them.

"Thanks," I said.

"So what you got planned for this weekend?" she asked. "I don't think you've ever taken a personal day since I've known you."

"I got invited to the Eichendorf Gala," I said.

Doris paused in the act of stuffing her purse under the counter, and turned to look at me with wide eyes. "Did you say the Eichendorf Gala?" she asked. "The one that's in all the papers?"

"Yup, that's the one. My friend Mel asked me to go and she wouldn't take no for an answer," I said, shrugging my shoulders. I didn't know why I felt the need to try to explain myself, as if I wanted Doris to know I was going against my will.

"Wow! I'm so happy for you. You deserve a nice night out," she said, patting my arm in a kind motherly way.

"Uhh yeah, thanks."

"Maybe you'll meet a nice man there, and get swept away," she said dreamily.

I rolled my eyes at her and laughed. "Really Doris, you've got to stop reading those romance novels. There's probably a less than zero percent chance I'll meet a decent guy at this gala. I'm just hoping I don't make a fool of myself."

"Hey, you never know. A beautiful girl like you is sure to draw the attention of some lonely bachelor, preferably rich and handsome too!"

I snorted at Doris' fantasy. She was always an optimist and romantic at heart, but I knew better. There'd be no prince charming or white knight at this gala. Men just couldn't be trusted. I'd learned that the hard way. Sure, not all men were like that, but the ones I'd come across in my life definitely fit the bill. Every time I gave in and opened myself up just a little, I'd always gotten burned, so now I didn't even bother. I'd learned my lesson and had the scars to prove it.





***

This couldn't be happening to me. I stared at the mirror in dismay. My face decided to have a mutiny and break out into pimples on the day I was supposed to go to the gala.

Shit.

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